VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis did not endorse a proposal to let married men serve as priests in the Amazon region, in what would have been a special exception to a long-standing celibacy rule for clergy.
The exception, albeit limited to the Amazon region, would have likely enraged traditionalists, who already see Francis' papacy as too liberal.
In an October summit known as a synod, Amazon bishops called for admitting married men into the priesthood only in their region, to make up for an acute lack of clergy in remote rainforest areas.
In a written response to the summit, Francis made no mention of this, and also ruled out letting non-priests give the key sacraments of the Holy Communion and confession.
The pope formalized his views in an Apostolic Exhortation called "Dear Amazon."
The 111-point document tackles other issues discussed by Amazon bishops, including social and environmental justice, minority rights and the need for a greater role of women in the church.
The proposal on married clergy stemmed from the fact that Catholics in remotest parts of the Amazon see a priest no more than once a year.
"We cannot remain unconcerned" about the problem, the pontiff said in his document. "A specific and courageous response is required of the Church," he added.
One of his concrete suggestions was for more missionaries. He urged all bishops to "be more generous in encouraging those who display a missionary vocation to opt for the Amazon region."
Francis' stance is likely to please conservatives such as Cardinal Robert Sarah, who last month published a book in defence of priestly celibacy which he presented as co-written with ex-pope Benedict XVI.